Recently, energy manufacturers made their case to the U.S. Supreme Court, telling the justices why they should overturn a U.S. Court of Appeals ruling allowing the City of Baltimore’s climate lawsuit to be heard in state court. Though arguments centered around a technical legal question, the hearing represented an important inflection point in the greater climate litigation campaign, as a ruling from the Justices could impact whether, how and where Baltimore’s suit and the others like it can be heard.
Manufacturers’ Accountability Project’s Special Counsel Phil Goldberg spoke with several reporters covering the hearing, offering his take on the legal issue at hand as well as the climate litigation campaign against manufactures more broadly.
Goldberg, for example, explained to NPR’s Rebecca Hersher why state courts are an improper forum for these lawsuits:
“‘The issues here are inherently federal. … [Climate change] isn’t something the energy companies created. This is a byproduct of modern society. All the companies are doing is engaging in a lawful business endeavor. And what that is, is selling us the energy we need to drive our cars, turn on our lights, heat and cool our homes. And doing that is not a liability-causing event.”
Because climate change public policies are national in scope, such issues should therefore be heard in federal court, a point Goldberg made when speaking to the San Francisco Chronicle:
“Baltimore’s claims may be packaged under state tort law (but) their goals, the nature of the litigation, and the remedies they seek are all inherently national. …Developing national energy policy is a legislative and regulatory matter and should not be driven by a number of state court judges across the country based only on a narrow set of allegations.”
Speaking to the Washington Examiner, Goldberg also highlighted why litigation against energy manufacturers is an unproductive approach to tackling climate change:
“‘[T]here are two dozen of these cases that have been filed by the same people with the same financial backers and the same lawyers who are trying to game the system. …This litigation is not going to move the ball forward on dealing with the climate, and it’s really not going to move the ball forward on how we deal with the impacts of climate change. The city of Baltimore wants to absolve itself of any responsibility, even though it’s been a part of modern society like everybody else has been for the past 100 years.”
As Goldberg noted in a recent Federalist Society teleforum, the American people “truly understand that dealing with climate change is not about pointing fingers and placing blame,” citing a recent nationwide poll MAP commissioned. Instead of pursuing baseless litigation, local officials should work together with manufacturers while Congress considers opportunities to enact effective, meaningful solutions to this global issue.
- Supreme Court Open to Oil Industry’s Stance in Climate Case (Bloomberg Law, 1/19/2021)
- Supreme Court Case Could Limit Future Lawsuits Against Fossil Fuel Industry (The New York Times, 1/19/2021)
- Supreme Court weighs moving climate-change suits to federal court (Houston Chronicle, 1/19/2021)
- Climate fight may split justices along ideological lines (E&E News, 1/20/2021)
- Supreme Court Hears Oral Arguments In Case That Could Determine The Future Of Suits Against Energy Companies (The Daily Caller, 1/21/2021)